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Freshman goalkeeper helps lead Pioneers into lacrosse postseason

Freshman goalkeeper Jamie Faus fields a shot in a recent lacrosse game. Photo: Alan Schaefer

Jamie Faus was a little uncertain whether he would be able to capably step in as starting goalkeeper for the University of Denver men’s lacrosse team.

There is little question that the jump from high school to Division I — let alone playing for a program looking to take the next step on the national stage — presents a monumental change in expectations and competition for any athlete.

So when Faus arrived last fall from Lakeville, Conn., he promised himself a few things. Even if he ultimately did not land the Pioneers’ starting goalkeeper role, Faus vowed that no one would work harder than him, and that he would play with the sort of confidence that would soon win over his new teammates.

Displaying the sort of swagger that is rare among true freshmen stepping into high-profile roles, Faus has gone from a potential question mark to a bona fide strength in just a few short months.

Faus’ continued ascension will be one of the Pioneers’ biggest keys as they begin their final tune-up for the NCAA tournament when DU (11-2) opens the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC) tournament against Ohio State at Peter Barton Stadium.

Faus will enter the conference tournament showing off some prestigious hardware after he was named the ECAC’s rookie of the year. Faus also earned a second team all-ECAC honor.

“I didn’t know if I would get that spot. I’m not really one to think that way,” Faus says. “I was confident that I was going to work hard, and that I was going to try and work harder than not just the other goalies, but everyone else on the team. That’s in conditioning and on the field. I really wanted to show that I was confident. I didn’t want to seem like I was nervous.

“Goalie is a spot where you can’t really hide on the field. You really have to have that sense of confidence out there. And I wanted to make sure that the guys I was playing with had confidence in me, so that they weren’t worried about me and all they would have to do is make their plays. I was confident that I would be confident, but I really didn’t have any expectations.”

Faus’ confidence, however, was not going to carry him through the Pioneers’ demanding early season schedule. Almost from the beginning of the preseason, head coach Bill Tierney admitted he was not sure what to expect out of his rookie netminder. Immediately tossing Faus into the fray for the season opener at perennial power Syracuse was fraught with enough tension it would be easy to understand if Tierney had developed ulcers.

Instead, Faus assured his coach — and his teammates — that he was the right man for the job essentially from the opening faceoff.

“First of all, it’s the hardest position in the game. Secondly, we start him at Syracuse, which is the hardest place in the world to play,” says Tierney, the ECAC coach of the year. “Third, to go through a 13-game schedule with only two losses and never having a really horrible game … he has just been consistent. The best part is that he is playing his best lacrosse right now, which is kind of hard to believe after such a long season for such a young player.”

Faus finished the regular season ranked second in the ECAC in save percentage (.562) and fourth in goals against average (8.28) while earning four ECAC player of the week honors. Even Tierney did not expect Faus to surpass the statistical totals compiled by last season’s starter, Peter Lowell. And few expected Faus to be the defensive focal point of a team that recorded a monumental victory against defending national champion Duke and is rapidly emerging on the national stage.

Faus understands there still are doubts — both about him and about Denver’s new status as a national power. Continuing to turn heads, beginning in the ECAC finals and then in the NCAA tournament, certainly will erase any doubts.

“We’ve got to realize there are still people that are unsure about what’s going on out here and how good we really are,” Faus says. “I think we look at that and take it for what it is and let that fuel our fire.

“We aren’t really sure we’ve put together a full 60 minutes of the best lacrosse we can play yet. We haven’t put together a full game, I don’t think, where we’ve done everything right start to finish. We’ve had great games — we played great against Duke, we played well against Notre Dame — but I think we’re still improving and there is more that we can do to get better.”

The ECAC conference tournament begins May 5 and continues throughout the following weekend. NCAA action begins May 14.

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